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Peace, not war crimes court

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-Weah tells Lofians

President George Manneh Weah has told the people of Lofa County and Liberians generally to dialogue and forgive one another rather than advocating for war and economic crimes court for the country. President Weah is currently touring Lofa County as part of a nationwide exercise to listen to citizens’ concerns and commend them for electing him in 2017. The tour has taken him to 14 counties except Montserrado, as he seeks re-election in 2023.

He says Liberians should focus on fostering forgiveness and peace, stressing that without peace, it is difficult to achieve progress, but warns that perpetrators of heinous crimes during the civil crisis must not go free.
“But again we can forgive because sometimes our own children are the perpetrators, we need to understand what we want to do”, President Weah said in Kulahun district, Lofa County, while responding to Representative Clearance Massaquio’s concern about accountability for atrocities committed in the county during the war, pointing to mass graves.

“Mr. President, the third to the last town you entered before reaching Kolahun is called Tambulahun; Tambulahun is a site to a mass grave containing 39 of our citizens that were killed during the period of the war from all of the towns.

Approximately eight months ago I was in Kalahun, Lukamble District for the construction of a memorial site, there is a mass grave for 50 of our citizens that were killed in cold blood. Kamata, Masala, is a site of a mass grave. I was not too small not to remember those mass graves”, Rep.Massaquio narrates.

He laments that Liberians are hurt because they lost relatives, including parents and impunity should not stand in the way of accountability and justice. The LofaRepresentative, like many Liberians, wants the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendation for prosecution implemented.

“I know it is not common to say this. But Mr. President we have the report of the TRC, whatever forms they come Mr. President, those that are in those mass graves are not here today, on their behalf, we ask for justice”, he pleads.

He notes that the debate and explanation will be long why it wasn’t done by the past regime, saying, “There is no wrong time to do the right thing. If the past administration did not take step, we will not be discussing the TRC report. Mr. President, in whatever form justice comes, justice should be served.”

However, President Weah thinks it is important to heal and restore the nation rather than re-opening wounds, clarifying, “We are not saying the perpetrators should go free. What I said to the United Nations, we all must have reasons and time even the perpetrators and victims must sit to discuss, so all of us can understand, so we can’t go back to the dark days. This is why I said to the United Nations we need to engage. We need to go back to the palaver hut, sit with our chiefs and elders so that the mistakes that we made will not be repeated. So we can forgive each other, so our country can move on”,He acknowledges that Liberians are hurting, including perpetrators of war crimes who he describes as “Our own children and parents.”

“So we need to sit on the table and discuss how we can forge ahead; how we can bring back the unity and understanding among ourselves. We made a mistake, we cannot go back to the dark days. We are heading for progress for our country to be peaceful, let us do things the right way. If we dialogue in harmony then I think we can do all the things we want to do.”

The President frowns at the culture of violence in the country, and specifically points at endemic rape. “Look at what is happening around our country, people raping young women everyday; it’s our family that protects them because some of the rapists are our children. Liberians let us foster peace, if we sit around a table we will not go back to the dark days. This is time for governance, peace and security.”At the same time he reminds that Rep. Clearance has the power to act and asks, “Why is he not doing it, why is he asking me?”

Mr. Weah explains that as a lawmaker, Clearance serves the people, so if he (Rep. Clearance) believes in what he is calling for then let him put himself on record thru writing communication to have the TRC document on the floor for debate.

“My people, I am not saying those that hurt you, you should not question them. I see everyday people on the street war crimes court will come here. Yes, we want war crimes court. We’re not the perpetrators; I am not the perpetrator. I am the leader of this country. I was not in your war. When you were fighting war, I was playing soccer. But we understand because my parents were in the war and people died from me.”

In a buildup for the need to establish a war crimes court for Liberia, a consortium of civil society organizations headed by the President of Liberia National Bar Association, Cllr. TiawanGongloe, is mobilizing to bring over 100, 000 citizens into the streets to protest in support of the court.

A press release issued here on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, said as part of effort to cement national synergy among civil society institutions in Liberia aimed at defeating impunity via full and timely implementation of the TRC Report, The National Consortium to Eliminate Impunity in Liberia was established on Monday May 31, 2021 by 20 institutions.

“Over Two Hundred Fifty Thousand (250,000) Liberians were killed, tens of thousands injured and millions were displaced internally across the country with others as refugees in neighboring countries as a result of the fourteen years brutal civil war in the country”, the release noted. Story by Jonathan Browne

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